Winter’s coming. Scotland stops evictions and rent increases. Your government can too!

Winter is coming to the Global North. In the United Kingdom, winter can be brutal. Inflation this week hit 10.1%, the highest since 1982. Rents across the United Kingdom have skyrocketed at never-before-seen rates or levels. Scotland was hit the hardest. Last year, across the United Kingdom, close to a million rental households feared and anticipated eviction: “Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) renters, renters with children, lower-income renters, and renters that have lost income during the pandemic, are disproportionately struggling.”. Where are the women in this tragedy? Black women, Asian women, minority ethnic women. Women with children. Lower-income women. Women who have lost income during the pandemic. Where are the women? Everywhere, disproportionately.  This week, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, responding to the crisis, announced a rent freeze on public and private properties and a ban on winter evictions. In Scotland, 37% of households are rentals. The rent freeze and the ban on evictions will be in place until at least March 31.

According to Nicola Sturgeon, by October, 40% of all Scottish households would be “in fuel poverty”, 37% in “extreme fuel poverty”. As we have seen in the United States and elsewhere, fuel poverty translates to food poverty, housing poverty, education poverty, health poverty. Fuel poverty translates as well into increased domestic and community violence. There are no discrete poverty categories. As Nicola Sturgeon noted, “It is, to be blunt, a humanitarian emergency”.

Scotland cannot address fuel poverty on its own. The United Kingdom, ie Westminster, must do that. Scotland has the same impediments as many jurisdictions around the world. It can do some, but not all, things. But it has decided to do something. In Scotland as elsewhere, a rent freeze is controversial. A ban on evictions is controversial. The government of Scotland decided to welcome the controversy and move forward: “It will aim to give people security about the roof over their heads this winter through a moratorium on evictions. Secondly the legislation will include measures to deliver a rent freeze. The Scottish government does not have the power to stop your energy bills soaring but we can take action to ensure your rent does not rise. The practical effect of this statement is that rents are frozen from today. Two of the most important and fundamental sources of security for any of us are a job and a home. In times of economic and financial crisis. These can be the foundations that helps people through.”

These can be the foundations that help people through. Scotland has acted. Your government can as well.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: BBC)